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Wi-Fi Direct: Creating a Wireless Powerhouse
Posted: 09-May-2011 [Source: In-Stat]

[In-Stat forecasts all Wi-Fi devices that ship by 2014 will be enabled with Wi-Fi Direct, creating a one-stop shop for wireless networking and connectivity.]

Wi-Fi Direct is software that sits on top of IEEE 802.11x silicon, so Wi-Fi Direct’s success is fully dependent on the success of that underlying 802.11x chip solution. Because it is software and not a change to the silicon, it does not require a new IEEE specification, and is governed instead by the Wi-Fi Alliance?the Austin, Texas-based trade association.

Wi-Fi Direct creates a very powerful Wi-Fi solution, as it enables the premier wireless networking standard to add peer-to-peer capability, with no need for a Wi-Fi access point. This creates a much more compelling and complete wireless standard, and brings Wi-Fi into competition with specifications such as Bluetooth. And because Wi-Fi Direct is software based, the marginal cost of Wi-Fi Direct-enabled silicon over basic Wi-Fi silicon is minimal.

"Wi-Fi Direct enjoys wide backing from Wi-Fi silicon vendors. Companies such as Atheros, Broadcom, CSR, Intel, Marvell, Qualcomm, Ralink, and Realtek all have plans for widespread release of Wi-Fi Direct-enabled silicon," according to Brian O'Rourke, Research Director. "In fact, many of these companies received Wi-Fi Direct certification for at least one chip solution in the fourth quarter of 2010, shortly after the specification was released by the Wi-Fi Alliance in October. In terms of adoption by 802.11x type, 802.11a/g chip vendors are not likely to add Wi-Fi Direct, as the standard has a limited life span remaining. However, it will be seen in the vast majority of new 802.11n silicon beginning in 2011. And it will be standard in 802.11ac silicon as it begins to ship."

However, adoption of Wi-Fi Direct software in Wi-Fi silicon is only half the battle to ensure its success among consumers. Another vital issue will be making the Wi-Fi Direct standard useful with application programming interface (API) software. APIs ease the connection between devices, and increase the usability of Wi-Fi Direct for consumers. Without solid APIs, Wi-Fi Direct will only be marginally more useful than the current 802.11x ad-hoc mode?the first, complex, little-used attempt at Wi-Fi peer-to-peer connectivity. Wi-Fi chip vendors are already delivering API solutions. For example, Broadcom has announced its Maestro API suite, Atheros has Direct Connect, and Qualcomm has introduced AllJoyn. Nevertheless, there is a danger in Wi-Fi silicon vendors creating APIs. A rival company may be hesitant to use one of these solutions for fear of helping, and possibly becoming dependent on, the competition. And without widely accepted APIs, it will be difficult for a Wi-Fi Direct ecosystem to develop. This could create an opening for a third-party software vendor to provide an API.

Wi-Fi Direct devices came to market in very small numbers in late 2010, a result of the 21 Wi-Fi Direct-certified products approved by the Wi-Fi Alliance in the fourth quarter of 2010. Many more products will hit the market in 2011. The first applications to adopt Wi-Fi Direct include mobile PCs, mobile phones, and digital televisions (DTVs). These devices share a trait: they are the respective centers of the PC, CE, and mobile device clusters, and they ship in the hundreds of millions of devices annually. So it makes sense for Wi-Fi Direct to start with these applications, and then move to the rest of the PC, PC peripheral, and CE ecosystems. Ultimately, we expect Wi-Fi Direct to be successful and that, by 2014, all Wi-Fi devices that ship will be enabled with Wi-Fi Direct, creating a one-stop shop for wireless networking and connectivity.

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